Back in January I wrote about the plight of hundreds of thousands of women facing financial hardship following the government’s rapid increase in their state pension age.
Until last year, many of these women thought they were on the brink of retirement. After decades of working, some only found out a year before they turned 60 that they had to work five more years before claiming their pension.
Whilst equalising the state pension age between men and women is the right thing to do, there is no getting around the fact that the government has handled this situation extremely poorly.
A national group called WASPI – Women Against State Pension Age Inequality – has been campaigning tirelessly to urge the government to introduce transitional arrangements to help women born in the 1950s affected by these changes.
Last week I was delighted to meet with the newly formed WASPI Barnsley group to hear how these changes are affecting them.
This determined group of women are shocked and appalled by the government’s callous attitude towards them. And I don’t blame them.
Many left school at 15, as was expected of them. They stopped work to bring up a family and then worked in part time, often low paid jobs. In short, their earning potential was lower than the men of their generation from the outset, and now they face an uncertain future.
As one woman explained to me: “I left school on Friday and started work on the Monday. When I got married, I gave up my job. There was no notion I would carry on working. There was no childcare in those days. It’s what you did.”
The women told me of friends widowed before the age of 59 who have no income and little prospect of finding a job. “How are they supposed to live? Where is their safety net?” I am very concerned for them.
Whilst some are not well enough to continue working, others are making ends meet by taking in lodgers or selling their homes. All feel that that after a lifetime of work they have been abandoned by the government.
I have called on ministers to adjust their plans on numerous occasions. I have raised this with three successive Secretaries of State and two pension ministers. But the government remains unmoved.
As we left the meeting, one woman said simply “I never expected to be treated like this. I never would have believed it.” I find it hard to believe too.
The government needs to look at the impact these changes are already having and listen to the women who don’t know how they will afford to live. It is fundamentally wrong that they feel abandoned by the country they have worked so hard to support.
If you want to check out when you will retire and what your pension is likely to be visit the Government website which has a useful calculator and explains more.
This article was first published in the Barnsley Chronicle.